While leadership and justice might not seem linked by their dictionary definition alone (in fact, justice might seem more like a part of good leadership), but according to the Universal Values, Justice means the "strengths [one has] that build healthy communities," and with that in mind leadership is then an important part of justice indeed. Every strong community needs leaders in order to function properly, and it is your responsibility to serve as a leader when you skills are up to meet the challenge as opportunities arise.

Being a good leader can also improve your life through the path of transcendence. Transcendence is all about finding meaning in life, and being a leader and making positive change is one way that you can find more meaning and purpose in every day. Developing the skills of good leadership has more tangible, practical benefits as well, because your prospects in the workplace and even among friendships will improve once people know they can count on your leadership.

While it is true that some people are born with a better inherent ability to lead than others, being a good leader is a skill that anyone can develop—and a "natural" leader who doesn't work hard at his or her skills is usually worse off than someone who worked hard to develop these skills over time. Along with the skills involved, being a good leader also means developing other virtues that are necessary to be a good and respectable leader, and then having the determination to put those ethics in practice as you lead. Some of these virtues will be listed in the activities below.


  • Practice, Practice, Practice: People have more opportunities to lead then they probably notice. If you are in college or other classes, there will likely be times when the instructor will ask for volunteers to lead a group. At work, even if leading isn't a pert of your job description, you can usually find some opportunities to lead; you might be able offer your time to organize a gift exchange for someone's birthday, for example. If you seriously look for opportunities, you can find them. When you volunteer to lead, however, please-please-please make sure you are willing to put in the time to do your best job and avoid breeding resentment amongst your peers.
  • Study Leadership: This is a subject where reading some self-help books and biographies of other leaders might be more useful than with some other virtues. You can also find classes, motivational speakers, and other sources of education. Just make sure you find opportunities to practice your newly learned skills before you forget them.
  • Work on Humanity: Especially Social Intelligence. Being good with people and knowing how to interact with them is just an essential part of leadership (although you can compensate in some ways if you are still lacking in some social skills). It is also important to work for a common good instead of your own designs if you want to be a truly good leader, and developing humanity will help with this.
  • Work on Temperance: Being out of control will result in people taking you less seriously. Even if you must be stern, you must be in control.
  • Work on Courage: If you are scared and timid, you will have a hard time making the decisions you need as a leader.

Your Record

Anytime you fail to live up to your responsibilities as a leader for reasons you could have prevented (by working harder, for example, or by having more courage), then you should mark yourself at "fault" for the day. If you fail to take an obvious opportunity to lead when you had the skills and knowledge to do so, then mark yourself at fault. If you are focusing on this trait, use the activities above, but you should really mark yourself at fault when you miss a decent opportunity to lead—but when volunteering to lead, make sure you are honest about your abilities so your peers don't have unrealistic expectations or feel misled.


The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I'. And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say 'I'. They don't think 'I'. They think 'we'; they think 'team'. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit.... This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.

Peter F. Drucker, American writer and educator

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher

A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.

John Maxwell, American Motivational Speaker and Author

Golden Mean

Indecisiveness, passiveness
Tyranny, dictatorship

Recommended Reading

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You — by John C. Maxwell

This book by popular motivational author John Maxwell gives you 21 laws that he insists will turn you into a great leader, and he provides exercises and evaluations to help you learn them.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box — by Arbinger Institute

This book about leadership has an ethical focus toward leadership based on the idea that it's not always what you do, but why you do it that makes you a great leader. The author attempts to teach the reader how to avoid justifying selfish decisions by deceiving ourselves about our own motivation.

Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence — by Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, Annie McKee

This book maintains that the idea that one's emotions should be left out of leadership decisions is fundamentally flawed. The author states that developing your self-awareness and your social awareness (emotional intelligence) will make you a better leader. Emotional Intelligence is similar to the idea of social intelligence introduced in the page on the Humanity virtue (emotional intelligence implies more personal then social awareness—both are important skills).

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future. Edwin H. Friedman